MARCH 2018 • 11
ON SCREEN • BY ELVA K. ÖSTERREICH
Innovative Animator Featured Ralph Bakshi’s career has routinely left a trail of dust
alph Bakshi created the full-length animated film “Wizards” (1977) to prove that adult animation wasn’t all about sex and violence. That was only five years after he created “Fritz the Cat” (1972), the first adult animated film, X-rated, which was all about sex and a bit about violence. But that’s Bakshi, regardless of the consequences. Bakshi will receive the Outstanding Achievement in Animation Award during the 2018 Las Cruces International Film Festival presented by New Mexico State University March 7-11. LCIFF will screen his films “Wizards” at 5 p.m. and “American Pop” at 7 p.m. Friday, March 9, at the Allen Theatres Cineport 10, followed by a question and answer session. Born in 1938 in Palestine, Bakshi was taken to the U.S. as a small child. As a boy in Brooklyn, it was all about the Sunday comics. “When I was 14 or 15, the comic strips in the Sunday papers were a big deal, I couldn’t get enough,” Bakshi said. “Then I made the decision to go to art school. It all started when I wanted to be a cartoonist.” He attended the High School of Art and Design and followed that with a career start at Terrytoons, for 10-12 years. He animated 95 episodes of “The Deputy Dawg Show.” Then Bakshi made a change and never looked back. “’Fritz (the Cat)’ brought me to Hollywood, but I was perfectly happy before that,” he said. “That was the thing that made a huge difference, the decision to
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do something other than what (the mainstream) was doing. I got yelled at a lot. It (departing from the norm) wasn’t the easiest thing to do in those days. I’m not sure that it’s easy today.” The artist in Bakshi, who turns 80 this year, hardly relates to today’s need to conform, as in collecting “Likes” on Facebook. “If you are going to do animation, it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. You should do what you want to do.” Bakshi was creating, directing, writing animated stories and processing them before computers did the work. “It was all done by hand,” he said. “But how you do it wasn’t the issue. What you choose to do is more important than how. The computer is not any better or worse. I don’t see that hand drawn is any better than today.” Bakshi is the creator behind HBO’s “Spicy City,” the first animated series for adults, and voiced three of the characters. The series ended after six episodes when HBO wanted to replace Bakshi’s writers and Bak-
WHEN: March 7-11 WHAT: Feature-length, short films, documentaries and student films; workshops, lectures, panels, parties and presentations WHERE: Various locations, most films screened at Cineport 10 INFO: www.lciffest.com or 575-646-6149 shi said no. “The studio wanted to hire LA writers,” he said. Bakshi was introduced to New Mexico through his friendship with World War II cartoonist Bill Mauldin. Mauldin, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, hailed from High Rolls Mountain Park in the Sacramento Mountains. “He was one of my idols,” Bakshi said. Bakshi occasionally lectures at New Mexico State University’s Creative Arts Institute, for which he has the utmost admiration. “They are doing tremendous work there. It is sensational. They started with nothing and now are at the top of the line for animation. It’s a great environment out here in the West.” Bakshi lives on a mountain, on the edge of a national park, in the wilderness. In 40 minutes he can be in Silver City. “I love every minute. No cars. No traffic. It’s amazing. I always wanted to drive my pickup truck with a dust trail rising behind me.”
SCREEN ICON • ELVA K. ÖSTERREICH
Film festival featured animator Ralph Bakshi creates characters on his easel from his studio near Silver City. (Courtesy Illustration)
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Actress’s most important role might be offstage
am Grier was down in the barn with her horses Maxwell and Nora, both adopted, when she had to head to the house to answer my call. Her Colorado home is more of a ranch than a mansion. She said people are surprised when they find a home where you can wash the floors with a hose and dogs rule the territory. “I have lots of dirt and trees,” she said. “It scares people away. Guys go, ‘Where’s the pool.’ But there is just a creek. I am on my own well – fresh bottled water.” Grier will attend the Las Cruces International Film Festival in March, where she is part of the introduction to “Rose,” a film she shot with fellow actress Cybill Shepherd in Truth or Consequences in 2016. She will also participate in a diversity panel and hobnob with friends Shepherd and James Brolin.
When Grier came down to New Mexico to work on “Rose,” this down-to-earth “Hollywood” type drove. “It was a great road trip,” she said. “I love to smell the earth, eat the food, see people – smiles, frustration, bug bites – everything. Actually, she comes to New Mexico regularly. Her sister has a home in Albuquerque and
Grier and her mom go to Santa Fe for the Indian Market every year. “I love going down there, eating my way from all the different vendors,” she said. “We just eat our way through Santa Fe. They show us pictures of their families and I contribute to the art community. She’s even been to Las Cruces, which she labeled “the art colony of the world.” Grier, 69, is perhaps bestknown for her lead role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” (1997), which he wrote with her in mind – before he ever met her. But she started much earlier, earning fans in a bevy of ’70s “blaxploitation” films in mostly bad-ass roles, like the 1974 “Foxy Brown,” where she poses as a prostitute
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